I am a sucker for maps and have been since I was a kid. Whether they come from an atlas, or the front of a fantasy novel, I have always loved poring over maps, wondering about place names and, if it is of an unfamiliar area, what it is like to travel from one place to another. As a kid, I found myself drawing maps a lot. I would draw spy maps of my house while plotting with my friends to secretly look in on my sister's nefarious deeds. I also made maps of idealized clubhouses, complete with living quarters for each of my friends, secure elevators and trapped stairs that changed to a slide at the flip of a switch. I even have a vague recollection of losing some matchbox cars on a beach near Pensacola, FL because I buried them, pirate-style, and marked the spot with an X but never found it again.
One of the things which first drew me to fantasy novels and then to role-playing games were the ubiquitous maps of each imaginary realm that generally appear at the front of any given fantasy novel and throughout any game book. In novels, the maps feel like a key to the story that follows. Sometimes they include a dotted-line foreshadowing the path of the protagonist. Even when they don't, the details on the map provide a tantalizing hint of what to expect from the story. After all, the author would not have included something unless he intended to at least mention it in his or her tale.
When I was in late grade school (5th or 6th grade) I built my first world with my best friend, Jim. The land was called Boink, because that is what a 10 year old boy names his penultimate creation. Jim and I populated the land with countries, exotic landforms, and even more exotic creatures. We were both big fans of Piers Anthony's Xanth novels, so our fantastic vision was rife with puns and other silliness. There were smurfs, who were at war with the trolls (picture the dolls). There were also creatures completely of our own imagination, like flopadinkles (head of a cow, body of a banana slug, wings of an eagle with an outboard motor strapped to its tail... I'm serious!) and keeblesnorts (my avatar on this blog is an image of a keeblesnort that I redrew in college.)
Maps continue to fascinate me today and the maps I create for my current D&D game provide both the greatest joys and frustrations. I absolutely love sitting down to map out my own imaginary locales, but I often have to restrain myself, because maps are a superfluous extra that must be put aside when more immediate game planning calls.
|The Westerlands (Click here to see full-size!)|